Out of all the talent that’s on display at Cage Warriors 92: Super Saturday, Nathaniel Wood has been given pride of place at the top of the second main card where he will look to defend his bantamweight title for the second time against Luca Iovine.
The Londoner’s aggressive style has made him a must-watch on the European scene. His last three finishes of Vaughan Lee, Marko Kovacevic and Josh Reed built his reputation as a breakout star in 2017.
This year, Wood looks to galvanize his position at the top of the Cage Warriors ladder. The last time Cage Warriors staged a “Super Saturday” event in London, nine fighters who fought on the night — including Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Stevie Ray and Jack Marshman — went on to be signed by the UFC.
Although it seems like Wood delivers electrifying fights every time he laces up his gloves, he still feels the expectation growing ahead of Cage Warriors’ historic marquee.
“It puts a lot more pressure on me, I think,” Wood told MMA Fighting. “Look at how many people went to the UFC from the last one? Pressure makes diamonds as far as I’m concerned, so I welcome it.”
Wood prides himself on his willingness to take on all comers. He says he signed to fight Iovine before he even got a glimpse of his 12-1 record.
One of the main sub plots going into the London event is Welsh prospect Jack Shore’s bantamweight debut — a successful outing against UFC veteran Vaughan Lee will secure him the next shot at the bantamweight strap.
Shore is just one of a number of fighters that are calling for a fight with Wood. The Brad Pickett protege is ready to take them all on because as far as he’s concerned, that’s what champs do.
“I have full faith in myself, I really think I’m one of the best fighters in the world. If you’re the best fighter in the world you don’t duck fights. I take any challenge that Cage Warriors put in front of me, that’s why I’m the champ,” he said.
“Of course you have guys calling you out, that’s what happens when you’re at the top of the division. I really just think that Jack Shore, Brian Bouland and all the other people that are calling me out are not on my level. They’re all easy fights to me, so I’ll accept every one of them.”
It feels as though a matchup between Wood and Shore could be one of the biggest domestic fights the UK has seen in a long time, but the champion feels as though the excitement is coming from one area in particular.
“I never look passed an opponent, so all I’m thinking about is Luca right now,” when asked about the prospect of facing Shore. “Until someone has signed on the dotted line to fight me, I don’t think about the matchup or what could happen or how many people would want to watch it.
“Will it be one of the biggest domestic UK fights? I don’t know actually. I’ve got a lot of people telling me that they really want to see that fight, but they’ve got one thing in common — they’re all Welsh.
“It’s all Jack’s supporters, so of course they’re going to want to see that fight…it’s a title shot. I think it’s got something to do with the fact that him and Josh Reed are teammates.”
He might not be all that hot on the idea of the fight, but Wood certainly wouldn’t turn it down.
“I don’t care who I fight, but if I’m honest, I haven’t had any of my supporters come up to me and say, ‘Jack Shore is the guy that we want to see you fight’, people just keep telling me they want me to see me in the UFC after this one.”
Having ascended to the top of the Cage Warriors roster, the natural progression for Wood is to sign with the UFC. Even though a contract will become far more likely if Wood has his hand raised on home soil this Saturday, you certainly won’t hear him ask for one.
“I’m more than ready to be in the UFC and I think I’m more than ready to take on those top 10 guys. As I said in our previous interview, I’m taking each fight as it comes and I’m in no rush. One thing you will not see me do is beg for a contract. I think people only lose respect for fighters who do that and I’m not willing to sacrifice that. When [the contract] comes, it comes,” he said.